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I’m a Cyclist and a Physical Therapist, and These are my 5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises

Follow this cycling physical therapist's approach to maximize performance and prevent injury by working neglected muscles—the Psoas.

The psoas muscle is one of the most significant muscles in the cyclist’s body, and many cyclists aren’t aware. The Psoas muscle is the primary connector between the trunk and legs and is essential in stabilizing the spine. The Psoas is our deepest core muscle and the only one that crosses the spine and hip.


Focused strengthening, flexibility training, and conditioning of the psoas muscle are essential in maximizing cycling performance and preventing injury. The topic commonly arises in physical therapy practice, and over the years, the treatment protocol has come to include the 5 best cycling psoas muscle exercises. But first, why is the Psoas so important?

mountain biker taking a jump in the woods
Photo TLBVelo photography

Why is the Psoas Muscle Significant to Cyclists?

The psoas muscle is one of the most misunderstood, overlooked, or neglected cycling muscles and one of the most abused parts of a cyclist’s anatomy. Psoas muscle tightness resulting from a predominantly seated lifestyle and flexed bike positioning causes psoas muscle tightness. Tightness in the Psoas muscle will negatively impact power output and produce poor function on the bike.


A 2015 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports compared Psoas muscle volume between trained and untrained cyclists before and after six months of cycling training. The researchers showed that the size of the psoas muscles was significantly greater in the experienced cyclists than in the untrained men and increased substantially after competitive training for six months.


Hip flexion produces approximately 14% of our pedaling power when lifting the pedal during the upstroke. More efficient power transfer and production by the opposite leg results from using the hip flexor muscles to raise your thigh. 

The Psoas muscle’s primary purpose is to efficiently decrease the backside weight of the pedal stroke.

diagram of the psoas muscle

What is the Psoas Muscle, and What is its Function?

The Psoas is the only muscle that connects your thigh to your spine. It originates from your lower spine, where it attaches to the lumbar vertebrae. The muscle fibers travel through the pelvis to unite behind the thigh bone (the femur) at the lesser trochanter, forming the primary hip flexor group segment.


The Psoas is a prime hip flexor that bends your knee towards your chest and brings your leg forward when you walk. When you lean forward, the Psoas acts to flex your trunk. It also stabilizes your spine when moving and provides postural support when stationary.


Loss of Psoas muscle flexibility contributes to many cycling-related issues, like hip flexor muscle weakness and the progressive decline in power to the pedals. In addition, poor Psoas stabilization impairs bike positioning and causes improper hip rotation, patellofemoral tracking problems, and muscle imbalances.

Why is the Psoas a Problem For Cyclists?

Prolonged sitting on the bike and off is a daily reality. The primarily forward-flexed posture places imbalanced stress on the musculature of the spine, hips, and thighs. Cyclists engage the Psoas muscle with each pedal stroke, and repetitive contraction in a flexed position causes the Psoas to become tight and weak.

Improper pelvic positioning, described as an anterior pelvic tilt or “sway back,” results from the pull of the Psoas on the spine. The opposing glute muscles become weak and ineffective. A seated lifestyle and forward bike position contribute to Psoas muscle shortening, inactive glutes, and core weakness.

How to Tell if You Have a Tight Psoas

To get a basic idea of your Psoas flexibility, perform a do-it-yourself Modified Thomas Test.


  1. Lie on your back at the edge of a bench, bed, or table.
  2. Bend one knee and pull it tight to your chest using both arms.
  3. Allow the other leg to hang down freely.
  4. Ensure your lower back remains flat and in contact with the surface during the test.
What does it show?

Okay!—Your back is flat while your leg hangs below the table level with your knee bent to 90 degrees. 

Oh no!—Your leg doesn’t hang freely below the level of the table because of Psoas muscle tightness.

Don’t worry! Here are the 5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises!

The 5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises—Stretching

Stretching of the Psoas is essential for cyclists because of a concept called “Dynamic Shortening.” Dynamic or Adaptive muscle shortening occurs when muscles adapt to their habitually used length. It is a worst-case scenario for the cyclist’s Psoas, which continually contracts in a flexed shortened position.

Here are 5 exercises to stretch a cyclist's Psoas!

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-Lunge yoga pose

Lunge Yoga Pose

Start in a standing lunge position (large step forward with one foot). Position your feet so that both feet are pointed straight ahead. 


Tighten your abdominal muscles moving your naval towards your spine. Bend your front knee keeping the knee behind your toes. You can allow your back knee to bend deeper to progress this pose. 


Keep your back straight and in a neutral spine position. Reduce step length if back arch too much. Raise arms up over head. Hold this position.

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-half kneel hip flexor stretch

Half Kneel Hip Flexor Stretch

While kneeling down on one knee, lean forward and bend your front knee until a stretch is felt along the front hip area of the knee-down side. Reach up with the arm to feel a deeper stretch.

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-supine hip flexor stretch

Supine Hip Flexor Table Stretch

While lying on a table or high bed, let the affected leg lower towards the floor until a stretch is felt along the front of your thigh. 


 At the same time, slowly bend your affected knee to add more stretch, grasp your opposite knee, and pull it towards your chest.

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-supine hip flexor Thomas stretch

Hip Flexor Table Stretch with Strap—Thomas Stretch

Place a strap or belt around your foot as shown. Bring the other end of the belt around your shoulder. 


While lying on a table or high bed, let the affected leg lower towards the floor. Next, gently pull on the strap to get your knee to bend until you feel a stretch on top of your thigh.

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-prone hip flexor table stretch

Prone Hip Flexor Table Stretch

Lie on a table or bed with one leg hanging off the side. Next, prop yourself up on your hands. You should feel a stretch to the front of your hip/thigh area of the leg that is on the table/bed.

The 5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises—Strengthening

An astute reader will ask, “If my Psoas is tight because it is contracting too much, then why would I want to strengthen it?” The short answer is, “You don’t.” The solution involves a concept known as “Reciprocal Inhibition.”


Reciprocal inhibition results when tightness in a muscle causes the opposing muscle group to become over-stretched and weak. When a cyclist’s Psoas dynamically shortens, the gluteal muscles opposite the hip joint become lengthened, interfering with their ability to contract effectively.

Here are 5 exercises to counteract an overbearing Psoas!

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-forward lunge

Forward Dumbell Lunges

Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Next, take a step forward and slightly to the side and allow your front knee to bend into a lunge position. Your back knee may bend as well. Then, push off the front knee and return to starting position. Then perform on the same leg again. 


Keep your pelvis level and straight the entire time. 


Your front knee should bend in line with the 2nd toe and not pass the front of the foot. The dumbbells should surround the forward knee.


Forward lunges are an effective place to begin your glute strengthening program.

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-single leg squats

Single-Leg Squats

Start by sitting in a chair. Next, using only one leg, raise up to standing without using your hands for support.


Single-leg squats focus the glute contraction greater than conventional squat movements.

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-side monster walk

Side Monster Walk with Elastic Band

Place a looped elastic band around both thighs.


Next, bend your knees and step to the side while keeping tension on the band the entire time.  After taking sidesteps to the side in one direction, reverse the direction taking sidesteps until you return to the starting position. Repeat. 


Lateral monster walks with a band allow you to maintain tension on the glutes during a dynamic movement.

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-single leg deadlifts

Single-Leg Deadlifts

Demonstrated by US National Cycling Esports Champion Jacqueline Godbe

Single-leg deadlifts are a challenging movement that isolates the glutes through stabilization and optimizes co-contraction with the hamstrings.

5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercises-hop and skip plyometrics

Single-Leg Hop and Stick Plyometrics

Stand on one leg and then hop forward and land on the foot of the same leg. Hop 3 times forward, and on the last landing, balance and stick the landing (hold the landing on one foot). 


Increase the distance and or height of the jump to progress this exercise.


The dynamic nature of unilateral plyometrics increases the intensity, timing, and efficiency of the glute contraction and adds a stabilization element.

Core strength is an essential component of a Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercise Program

The Bridge Core strengthening series incorporates core and glute strengthening, making it an ideal addition to the 5 Best Cycling Psoas Muscle Exercise Program.

If you’d like to learn more about the significance of the Psoas muscle for cyclists, check out The Psoas Muscle…Pso Why is it Pso Important to the Cyclist?

Pso, are you convinced?

Comment below! Your fellow virtual cyclists want to know.

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3 months ago

This is fantastic Chris. What a thorough exposition. One of the issues with the papas of course is that it’s so darned hard to get into! Not enough therapists know how to get to it or are comfortable about going there. The exercises you show are great.

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